What do you want out of your left fielder? This is typically a position where you want a jolt of power. The New York Mets didn’t get much of it in 2021 from anyone they put out there. Frankly, everyone except for Pete Alonso took the year off from hitting home runs.
Next year’s left field solution could end up being a temporary one to start with a bigger plan in place shortly thereafter. Kevin Pillar could return and open the year at the position but it won’t be his for long. Someone is lurking and left field looks like a possible spot for him.
Any guesses? I won’t make you wait. It’s Mark Vientos.
Mark Vientos has too much power for the Mets to ignore
Vientos had his breakout year down in the minors this past year. In 306 trips to the plate in Double-A, the third base prospect hit 22 home runs, drove in 59, and slashed .281/.346/.580. He would go on to finish the season with 43 plate appearances in Triple-A. The bat stayed awake with 3 more home runs and a .278/.395/.583 slash line in those 11 games played.
I threw in that point about him being a third base prospect on purpose. That’s because we all know the Mets have a decision looming: how do they decide between Vientos and Brett Baty?
Vientos has been a poor defender at the hot corner since his professional career began. This past year, down in Double-A, he committed 10 errors in 76 chances for a fielding percentage of .868. There aren’t too many defensive metrics for minor leagues out there readily available but we can tell enough by his .906 career fielding percentage at third base.
This isn’t good.
Left field might make perfect sense for Vientos right now. Rising Apple’s Brad LaPlante has an idea of what to do with him in the future, but for now, moving him back a couple of hundred steps from third base is doable.
It’s a position many bad defenders have found themselves, particularly when there was no other place to play them. You don’t need the same arm as a right fielder and some could argue you don’t need the same range either. A mistake in right field can turn a double into a triple far more easily because of the distance.
I’m not driving a bandwagon saying he will have the same defensive success out in left field, but whenever I think of an infielder shifting to left field I always remember Alex Gordon. He was a butcher at third base who turned into a Gold Glove outfielder. A more likely comparison is Ryan Braun. He moved from third base to left field after his rookie year and became serviceable.
Vientos has proven he can hit as a professional. He has also shown he probably doesn’t belong at third base.
The Mets organization already began the process of moving Vientos away from third base and into left field. Projected to begin the 2022 season in Triple-A, a combination of Pillar and maybe Jeff McNeil in left field (I’m convinced Dominic Smith gets traded) to begin the year can allow him more time to grow.
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As much as I’m sure we’d all love to see the Mets bring in expensive proven bats, you need a few league minimum ones on the payroll. By late April or early May, perhaps we see Vientos shagging some flyballs out in left field to the best of his ability and swatting baseballs over the fence and raising the apple often.